by Dan Schrack
Rochester, N.Y. — It’s a troubling issue faced by more than half of the children in Rochester.
Families living in poverty – some without stable housing.
A new organization hopes to change that because both issues have such a lasting impact.
“A child’s likelihood of graduating high school, attending college, graduating college, being a high-earning adult is correlated heavily by their childhood experience,” said Pete Nabozny, The Children’s Agenda.
According to the latest data, more than half the students attending the Rochester City School District live at or below the federal poverty line.
Even more alarming – the number of children who don’t know where they’ll sleep one night to the next.
“Overall there are a lot of children attending Rochester city schools who are experiencing some form of housing instability. And that can be really disruptive to their education and overall well-being,” Nabozny said.
Last year, there were 798 students classified as homeless in the district. That number is likely to rise to pre-pandemic levels in the thousands this year.
The circumstance leaves some at a disadvantage. Proficiency assessments from 2012 to last year show a decline in both literacy and math for some students.
But John Thompson is trying to fix that.
“We got support when we were young and we want to pay it forward,” Thompson, executive director and founder of SPIRIT NYS, said.
In early 2021, Thompson founded the group, committing a quarter of a million dollars to help break the cycle of poverty.
Last year, the organization gave biweekly stipends to 40 students in need for necessities like food and clothing.
“And as they continue progressing toward that diploma, we continue to give them the stipend,” board member Amy Breitenborn said.
The board is dedicated to growing its efforts and hopes to help more students in other districts in the years to come, she said.
“And when we asked the students who were enrolled in SPIRIT NYS what kind of impact the program had on them this year, a lot of them blew us away by just saying knowing that somebody cared about them is what really motivated them,” Breitenborn said.
More information about SPIRIT NYS is available here. Learn more about RCSD’s Families in Transition Program here. There is also a list of resources here.
The Children’s Agenda advocates for effective policies and drives evidenced-based solutions for the health, education and success of children. We are especially committed to children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health inequities and trauma.